Monday, January 25, 2010

NL King - "The Closers"

Today we'll take a look at all the National League closers. To have a championship team you have to have saves. You don't have to win the category but you need to be competitive. Punting doesn't work so don't even go down that road. Unlike the American League where there are a lot more givens at the closer position (Mariano Rivera, Jon Papelbon, Joe Nathan, Bobby Jenks, Joakim Soria, not to mention the promising younsters Andrew Bailey and David Aardsma), the NL has a lot of question.  Let's break it down...

The Elite:
Jonathan Broxton - LAD - I know he only has 55 career saves and his numbers on the road aren't great and has blown some big playoff games but this guy is nasty. No reason not to expect awesome numbers in ratio & K's, strong ERA & around 40 saves.

Really Good But Not Elite:
Notice there is only 1 guy at the elite level?

Trevor Hoffman - Since his rookie year in 93 where he had a ratio of 1.32, Hoffman's worst ratio year was 1.18 in a season. That is pretty amazing. To me he has always put up elite numbers other than 2008. I still think he is money in the bank but we have to recognize he is 42 years old. His fastball is probably around 88 but the guy knows how to get outs.

Francisco Rodriguez - Not so much because he had bad last 2 months but his ratio numbers have gone up each year and his strikeout numbers have gone down each year. Still one of the better NL options and even on the Mets should get close to 40 saves with pretty good numbers across the board.

Huston Street - After a so-so 2008 Street showed that in 2009 he is capable of being an elite closer. Always been a strong ratio guy and at least a K per inning guy. A strong 2010 and we can put him in the elite part of the list. Remember just signed a 3 year deal with the Rockies so will be in the NL for a while.

Francisco Cordero - Believe it or not he has 225 saves the last 6 years (average of 37.5 per year). So why is he not elite? 2006 was a bit of a lost year for him, his ratio is usually a bit to high to feel comfortable & his dip in K's last year gives you pause. Also pitches in a bit of a bam box. But 225 saves in the last 6 years is nothing to sneeze at.

Brian Wilson - Yes, we loved the 41 saves in 2008 but the 4.64 ERA & 1.45 Ratio had us very concerned. Well, last year he got 3 less saves but his ERA was 2.75 and Ratio 1.20. One more year like 2009 and we can put him in the elite group.

Heath Bell - Bell only had 2 career saves before being the closer last year and had an elite year on every level. The only reason I do not have him in the elite group is because I want to see him do it again.

Ryan Franklin - The last year and a half he has been a very strong and reliable closer however Franklin does turn 37 in Spring training. His K's are usually a little low, limited closer experience and seems like the Cards are looking for the next closer. Should have at least another good year in him as a closer.

Could Be Really Good But Some Serious Questions (this is no particular 
order):

Billy Wagner - Hard to say what the Braves will get here, did look good in August & September, but coming back from major surgery and he will be 39 years old in the summer.

Leo Nunez - A little to many walks but it's the 13 HR allowed last year that gives me pause. A closer has to limit his walks and HR.

Brad Lidge - This guy is a rollercoaster. In 2008 does not blow a save and then last year has an ERA over 7. How is that possible? Throw in the fact that he is coming off surgery.

Matt Capps - Don't give up on this guy yet. He is entering his prime years and while he had a rough year last year (trust me I know I owned him in my league) keep in mind has 48 saves the last 2 years and a change of scenary might help.

Chad Qualls - He is not sexy but he is a veteran and knows how to get outs. Last year at the age of 31 became a closer for the first time.

Carlos Marmol - This guy has filthy stuff. How else do you get 93K's in 74 IP in 2009 & 114K's in 87 IP. However those walks must be cut way down for Marmol to stay a closer. Lou Pinella will lose his mind if he keeps those walks up.

Brandon Lyon - I know he was the closer in Arizona in 2008 and got 26 saves but that was with a 4.70 ERA. Only if you get him at bargain basement price.

Octavio Dotel - Only has 83 career saves in his 10+ year career. Just turned 36 and does anything the Pirates do work? Again only at a bargain basement price.

Final Thought: As great as electric stuff is the most important thing for a closer is to have, the strong mental attitude and ability to throw strikes is greater. Remember at the end of the day, 90% of the saves is getting 3 outs. But knowing what you are doing and having that tough closer mentality is 90% of the ball game. That's why at age 42 and throwing 88 MPH with his fastball Hoffman is still good.  That's why Qualls & Franklin who don't have electric stuff have been able to do the job later in their career.

Have a great week everyone!

NL King - C.Lizza

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